Long Distance Buses in Peru

November 4, 2013


The green “TOURISM AREQUIPA” sign lit atop the yellow frame made me feel a little calmer. I had been trying to locate a legitimately licensed cab company after hearing reports that in addition to visiting the Santa Catalina Monastery, getting driven out into the desert by a bogus driver, beaten, and robbed was a common tourists’ pastime in Arequipa. My heart rate fell again when he stopped to ask a police officer to interpret for me, unsure of my final destination. Always a good sign.

I’m not nearly as skeptical as I come across when it comes to trusting strangers and believing things will work out for the best. But I do my research, and I am cautious; I seldom carry more than a few dollars’ cash in Peru, and my passport is always locked away. In the case of transportation, when I was facing a 15+ hour bus ride from Lima to Arequipa after an international flight, I opted for the 90-minute airplane ride. However, on my way out, I had no choice; if I wanted to see the Nazca Lines, I had to bus all the way across the country.

An overnight bus sounded like the best option. I had heard reports of buses being pulled over at 2 AM in the middle of nowhere and its passengers stripped of their belongings, but these sounded few and far between and mostly restricted to routes between Peru and Ecuador. My first choice was Cruz del Sur, the most respectable (and expensive) company running between major cities. My thinking was this: wouldn’t the most expensive tourist bus companies be more likely to be targeted by thieves? In the end, I realized there was little to worry about and opted for a 1st-class ticket from Arequipa to Nazca.


Having dropped me off at the newer of Arequipa’s bus terminals, Terrapuerto, I attempted to do what I had always done in Korea: take my purchased ticket to the platform and just board. Not so simple in Peru, at least when you book with one of the major companies. Each requires you to check in like on an airline and walk through a security sweep. In addition, the bigger companies have individual lounges and gates. There’s always a departure tax of a few soles.

Although Cruz del Sur was known for being on time, this is still Peru, and incompetence and tardiness can sometimes reign supreme. I’m complaining, but it really wasn’t a big deal (we were held on the highway for two hours in the middle of the night as well, but I was half-asleep). As a first-class passenger, we were given nice seats that reclined 50-60 degrees, blankets, and pillows. Each passenger was given a once-over with a video camera to ensure no one was misses and no switches were made.

The downsides? Not many that others have seen in long-distance buses. There was a movie playing overtly loud and bright. There are toilets on board… but they’re not equipped to deal with solid waste; another good reason to not ride the bus when you’re dealing with Montezuma’s Revenge. Although Cruz del Sur is monitored from a central office with GPS, other companies like Peru Bus (Soyuz) have had a terrible track record when it comes to safety, including robbery, accidents, and pickpocketing. I’ll have to make my own judgement as I ride one between Nazca and Ica.

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